This Monday, April 25, is Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance commemorated in Australia and New Zealand for the lives lost in their army corps that fought and lost in the Dardanelles campaign against the Ottoman Empire, and more specifically a very special colonel lieutenant by the name of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk during World War I 101 years ago. For the Turks, a similar commemoration for the massive lives lost in the campaign is held on March 18 as Çanakkale Naval Victory Day. The Battle of Gallipoli, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign or the Gallipoli Campaign, was fought on land and sea in the Gallipoli peninsula on the northern shore of the Dardanelles strait, considered a strong foothold to conquering Asia Minor from Europe for a good millennium and a point that also connects the Aegean, Mediterranean and, through the Bosporus Strait, the Black Seas.
While its importance in history spans back to even before the times of Alexander the Great, it was its significance in the waning of the Ottoman Empire and the campaign staged by Winston Churchill and his Allied Fleet during World War I, a battle fought from March 18, 1915 to Jan. 9, 1916 and resulting in over in half a million casualties and at least 100,000 dead that is commemorated each year by thousands of international travelers. In the battle, the Allied Fleet, which included soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, British India and Newfoundland were forced to retreat and the victory would lead the way to the Turkish War of Independence and Ataturk's declaration of the Turkish Republic eight years later.
This very special peninsula, now a national park and preserved battle site along coves covered with pine trees, becomes a site of pilgrimage for the thousands that come out each year to take part in a very special dawn service held on April 25. Although this Monday's service, held after a night spent on the beach and attended by thousands from Down Under and countries in Europe who arrive to the peninsula backpacking or on week-long tours is certainly a unique time to visit, we in Turkey have the opportunity to journey to this special site independently and at any time of the year and is a journey well worth it. .
What to See:
This Gallipoli National Historic Park is on 335 square kilometers of the peninsula and encompasses all of the significant battle sites, 40 Allied war cemeteries and at least 20 Turkish cemeteries and is divided into two sections: the Northern Peninsula, where the Australian and New Zealand Anzac troops landed and the southern peninsula, where British, Indian, French and Australian troops landed on the same day. Any tour of the peninsula should begin with a visit to the Gallipoli Simulation Center (Çannakale Destanı Tanıtım Merkezi), located near Kabatepe on the northern peninsula. Opened in 2012, here you can experience a 3-D historical journey of the Gallipoli campaign, alternating between both points of view on the battle. In fact, one of the most significant factors of this epic battle is that it was famously known for being a gentleman's campaign with sympathy rampant between both sides as they diligently fought each other off.
In fact, one of the most significant spots to visit is the nearby Arıburnu Coastal Memorial, where an inscription, erected in 1934, depicts Ataturk's touching speech in which he stated, "Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours."
From there visitors head to Anzac Cove where the Allied Fleet landed on April 25, while the nearby Anzac Commemorative Site is where dawn services are held. Lone Pine is one of the most moving Anzac cemeteries and a site where 7,000 soldiers were killed in just four days as Australian forces captured Turkish positions on Aug. 6, 1915. Nearby is the Su Yatağı Anıtı, where Mustafa Kemal stayed awake for four days and nights leading up to his Aug. 9-10 counterattack. Chunuk Bair was the first objective of the Allied fleets' landing and was the site that saw the highest casualties with 30,000 deaths taking place between Aug. 6 and Aug. 10 that ill-fated year. Meanwhile, Suvla Bay, is where British reinforcements landed that same month and Morto Bay is the French Memorial and Cemetery, where over 3,000 French soldiers are buried. Finally, the impressive Çanakkale Martyrs' Memorial, referred to locally as the "Abide," is a gigantic stone structure overlooking the Dardanelles and commemorates the 86,000 Turkish soldiers who died in the campaign.
Where to Stay
While there are numerous accommodation options in Eceabat and Çanakkale, a short ferry ride away. Those in the know venture to The Gallipoli Houses, located in a village neighboring the battle sites and run by Belgian expat and history buff Eric Goossens and his wife Turkish wife Özlem, this bed and breakfast has hosted the likes of prime ministers and Hollywood film directors. Although they will be packed this weekend, it is well-worth a stay at any time of the year to learn more from the expert himself on this epic historical battle.
For backpackers, Hotel Crowded House has been the long-standing budget option favorite, located in Eceabat and offering private rooms and plenty of tour options such as boat trips or snorkeling over a World War I shipwreck.